Sometimes, I feel like such an idiot.
I’ve been promising to write a post about neuropathy, especially in the hands, which I know a lot of my readers suffer from. There are a few treatment modalities that we physical therapists can perform with patients who have neuropathy, that can reduce or eliminate it. I was hoping recently to use one of them with a patient of mine, then write my post. But we only have one of these units at my agency, and it’s being used by someone else, so there you are. My patient is out of luck for the moment, and so am I. I’ll get back to you on that.
Meanwhile, I thought, what about adaptive stuff? PT’s and OT’s are always coming up with tools and suggestions to make our patients’ daily lives a little easier. So, I thought, okay, I’ll research some things and write a post about that. Yesterday, I finally sat down to research some adaptive equipment for a few friends who are having some problems typing, writing, drawing and using their computers. After a short flurry of online research for all the physical and occupational therapy equipment I knew about, and a few things I didn’t know about, it finally dawned on me that I needed a few bits of adaptive equipment myself.
Here I am, a physical therapist by trade, and suffering every day with right shoulder pain and tightness throughout my shoulder girdle and chest since radiation. I know how to stretch it, strengthen it, avoid it, make parts of my house more ergonomic, etc. But one of the things that can bother it the most is using my computer mouse, especially when I’m drawing on my computer. Duh. Then I asked myself how I could have had this blog for over two years and not written a post about adaptive equipment. I mean, really!! “Light dawns on marble head” (a Massachusetts joke based on a town called Marblehead). So, better late than never, here’s a post about some adaptive items and techniques that a lot of us may find helpful.
This item is called the Trackman Marble, made by Logitech. It’s part mouse and part trackball. It represents my big ‘Duh’ moment earlier today. I need this. Desperately. So, I ordered it. For anyone who uses a computer a lot, including bloggers and artists who do a lot of drawing and Photoshopping, this baby can help save your arm and shoulder from freezing up after holding it in the same mousing position for hours on end. It can be used with either hand, allows you to use your thumb for clicking, and the ball is sensitive enough to permit fine movements for using art and drawing software. Click on the picture for info.
If you have embraced some version of a touch screen, the above item may come in handy. It’s a touch pad input device that you use like a pen, called the Pogo Sketch, which will work with iPads and other Apple touch screens, like the MacBook Air, Unibody MacBook and Unibody MacBook Pro. It will also work with these laptops: Sony VAIO FW and NW Series; Compaq Presario CQ60; Toshiba Satellite E105,M505,L305,L505,A505,P505D; Dell Inspiron 15 Series; Dell Studio 17 Series (but not Studio XPS); Dell Studio S1440 (but not 1555); All HP Touchsmart products; and the HP Pavilion DV4. It costs $14.95 and comes in four colors. If you click on the picture, it will take you to the website for it. Many touch screens, like the iPad, are made to be used with your fingers, but if your fingers are numb from neuropathy, that may not be very practical. The Pogo Sketch is a good sized thick pen that will let you write, sketch, and scribble on your touch screen. (And there is a smaller version, called the Pogo Stylus, that you can use with your touch screen cellphone.)
If you have trouble gripping any sort of pen, including something like the Pogo Stylus, you can make it a lot easier to hold by adding an adaptive gripper. You can get the following handy item, called a Gripeaze, which can be adjusted to fit any hand-held pencil, pen, marker, paintbrush, toothbrush, crochet or knitting needle, or any other household implement with a small diameter handle, like spoons and forks. It costs $11.95. Clicking on the picture will take you to the website for the Wright Stuff, which has lots of adaptive items to make daily activities easier.
If you want something more specialized for making art on your iPad, you can get the item below, which is called a Bamboo Stylus, and it’s made by Wacom, the folks who were making touch pads way before the iPad. I have one of their Intuit Graphics Tablets, which comes with a touch pen and some handy pad keys that allow me to use the pen like an ink pen, a pencil, a paintbrush, a pastel or even a mouse. The Bamboo Stylus was made to do all this especially for the iPad, iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone.
With or without a touch screen pen, one way to get a lot more out of your touch screen device is by adding some handwriting recognition software. If you need to generate typed text, but can’t type, get tired of typing, or can’t use both hands, this kind of software allows you to write on your touch screen, with a stylus or your finger, then it turns even the most barely legible scrawl into text, and allows you to insert it wherever you want. We have some of this on our laptops for work and it’s amazing. You can correct the text and pretty it up, if need be, and even use little shorthand-type strokes to start a new line or move the text around. Incredible. Apple has such an app called WritePad, available through iTunes, that allows you to do this on your iPad and iPhone. It costs $3.99. For other touch devices and laptops, even other languages, VisionObjects has a software app called MyScript Stylus that can be uploaded to all sorts of touch screen and tablet devices, plus a mobile version for phones and other smaller devices. It costs about $65.00 in U.S. currency. Ritescript also makes similar software called ritePen, costing about $40.00. This is the software used on our laptops at work, and it will work with many types of touch screen laptops and tablets, with a version available for the iPad. Both VisionObjects and Ritescript offer free trials of their software.
There is another piece of software called SWYPE that allows you to drag a stylus or your finger across a touchscreen keyboard in order to produce text. There is even a digital pen called IrisNotes that allows you to write notes on paper that are converted and uploaded to your computer and turned into editable text. Miraculous!
If you can type, but can’t use both hands, you can learn to touch type very quickly with one hand by using the helpful information provided by the wonderful Lilly Walters, whose website on One-Handed Typing On a Normal Keyboard, tells you how she learned to do it herself. She provides tips, typing drills, and other sorts of information. There is even a humorous video of her typing, in which she states, “This is One Hand Touch Typing. I can type 85 words per minute, if I have had enough coffee!”
Voice To Text
Finally, if you just can’t use your hands at all or for very long, there is amazing voice recognition software [VRS] out there that will let you talk to your computer and turn your speech into text. A website called e-Speaking provides a free trial of VRS for Windows-based computers. If you like the program, it is shareware software and only costs $14.00. Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Preferred, by Nuance, is VRS that can work with all kinds of operating systems and all kinds of languages. It can be purchased for as little as $85.00. The link will take you to a review of this software, plus a few others that have been rated by a group called Consumer Search.
If you are just not sure what to do about your particular problem, please feel free to email me. Click on the Contact tab is at the top of this page or send an email to email@example.com. You can also ask your doctor for a prescription for occupational or physical therapy. A rehab therapist can often help you improve your mobility and decrease your pain, while helping you find adaptive strategies and tools that will work best for your situation. There is almost always some solution that can make life a little easier. Hope you find something here that might help you.
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